Udder health is important for the welfare of cows, for the hygienic and cheesemaking quality of milk as well as for dairy farm profitability.

Worldwide, mastitis is the most frequent disease in dairy farms and is the cause of considerable direct economic losses, due to decreased production and the culling of severely affected or poorly productive animals, as well as of indirect losses (veterinary costs, cheesemaking problems, labour costs, decreased milk value for quality issues).

For dairy farms these losses represent a cost of 50-350 euros/head/year, and each infection may cost the farmer around 200 euros in veterinary interventions and medications.¹.

Mastitis is an infectious disease in which various microorganisms are involved; it is strongly influenced by farm environmental, management and hygiene factors. The organisms that can cause mastitis are varied; rarely viruses, yeasts and algae, while bacteria and mycoplasma are extremely common. The organisms involved are present in the animals and in the environment; they penetrate into the mammary gland passing through the teats and then reproduce, damaging the mammary tissue, altering milk characteristics and in more severe cases they can be the cause of generalised forms of disease that can also result in the death of the animal.

Mastitis can be classified based on the clinical presentation (subclinical or clinical), the characteristics of the organism responsible for the transmission (environmental or contagious) and the evolution of the disease (acute or chronic).

The prevention of mastitis is based on environmental hygiene, a proper milking procedure, a correct drying-off strategy, proper monitoring of udder health and on the correct use of anti-mastitis medications.

¹ Valentina D. et al., (2006) Le mastiti costano molto all'allevatore, L'Informatore Agrario, 2/2006